7digital: it needs to get easier for start ups in the UK

Ben Drury, CEO of 7digital
Ben Drury, CEO of 7digital

7digital has built up an envious reputation in recent years as being one of the most popular media delivery services big name companies go to when they want a music platform for their devices.

Recently seen on tablets such as the Galaxy Tab II and the BlackBerry PlayBook and partnered with Songbird and Last.fm, 7digital's download store is quickly becoming ubiquitous in the online music world.

The 7digital music store houses 17 million tracks, putting the service up there with the likes of Apple and Spotify – not bad for a UK-based company that for the first three years couldn't find any funding.

But that is the fickle nature of creating a business in the UK, a subject Ben Drury, CEO of 7digital, is candid about.

"We started in 2004 and I have to say that up until now Britain's position on helping start-ups has been pretty poor," said Drury to TechRadar.

"I have spent a lot of time in the Silicon Valley and I have been slightly envious. But now things are good, although there is still a long way to go.

"You need to build the right eco-system, have the right people, the right angels, the right investors, the right infrastructure.

"People in Britain and in Europe have always been a bit afraid to take risks but this is also starting to change. There is now more of an entrepreneurial culture."


7digital's offices are based in East London, part of the cluster of tech companies that make up what's been nicknamed the Silicon Roundabout.

The community spirit of the area is something Drury believes the UK needs more of if it is to truly become a place where start-ups can flourish investors will flock to.

"[The Silicon Roundabout] is an awful name, but you do need a hub. We have started hanging out with other companies in the area, becoming part of the social scene and generally swapping ideas and getting advice.

"You can help each other if there are some dodgy investors snooping around who have been watching too much Dragon's Den and want 50 per cent of your company for three quid.

"It takes time for a community to build up but it is starting to happen. I am more positive now than any time before in London."


It may be green shoots, but the signs of a tech company resurgence in the UK is starting to appear and if David Cameron's speech about turning London into a Tech City to rival Silicon Valley turns out to be more that hot air, then there's promise of a true British technology epicentre.

Drury agrees but hopes that change comes sooner rather than later.

"It definitely needs to get easier to start up a company, or the Americans will just do everything," explained Drury.

"We have got amazing people in the UK. But I have found one of the biggest challenges here is getting the best developers, as they are all being sucked into the City and going to work for banks paying three times the salary.

"Fortunately, we are seeing developers more and more coming to us, saying 'I know I am really good and I could go and work for Barclays for £100,000 but I will work for you for less as it is cool and it interests me'.

"We definitely don't lack in this country and the wider Europe for talent."

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.